Petition Calls for E-Rate Funds for K-12 Cybersecurity Needs

Ed tech policy advocates are asking the FCC for help funding cybersecurity in public schools, as virtual learning continues and K-12 education is the most-targeted public sector for ransomware attacks.

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The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) submitted a petition Monday asking the Federal Communications Commission to invest in cybersecurity protections for public K-12 school districts through the federal E-rate program.

According to a news release, the petition offers cost estimates for three options: $738 million for next-generation firewalls, $1.606 billion for next-generation firewalls and endpoint security features, or $2.389 billion for all layers of cybersecurity.

Those figures came from the CoSN E-rate Cybersecurity Cost Estimate, developed through a partnership with Funds for Learning. Costs were based on five-year price models for hardware, software and cloud-based services used to guard schools against cyberattacks.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and FBI have received a slew of reports about ransomware attacks against students continuing their studies virtually during the coronavirus pandemic.

Developed as a way to help schools and libraries afford broadband, the current E-rate program only allows investments in basic network security, but CoSN CEO Keith Krueger said in a public statement that students are more vulnerable than ever to cyberattacks.

“The reality is that, nowadays, school districts are home to a vast amount of valuable personal data that cybercriminals are interested in stealing — that is why the FBI has warned that K-12 education is the most targeted public sector for ransomware attacks,” he said. “But schools lack the federal funding required to effectively combat these intrusions.”

The CoSN-led petition received support from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA); the State E-rate Coordinators' Alliance (SECA); the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed); the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) and the Council of the Great City Schools (CGCS).